During the first weekend of September, Greenfield Village celebrated the exciting sounds, scents, and sights of hundreds of vintage vehicles from the 1890s through 1932 during the 63rd annual Old Car Festival, America’s longest running antique car show. Many proud antique vehicle owners not only bring their cars, but get into the spirit of the event by dressing to match their car’s era which adds to the special ambience of this particular weekend long event.
Annually on the Saturday night of the festival, many visitors gather at the reviewing stand near the Thomas Edison statue to listen the talented Hotel Savarine Society Orchestra perform many of the popular songs of the 1920s while watching a group of energetic and enthusiastic dancers outfitted in elegant mid-1920s period clothing perform such dances as the Charleston, foxtrot and tango. Just as all the reproduction clothing and accessories in Greenfield Village are researched, designed and created on sight by The Clothing Studio of The Henry Ford, so are the vintage looks worn by the dancers.
This year, The Clothing Studio team worked collaboratively with the Creative Programs staff to create a more formal, “dressed up” head-to-toe 1920s look for the Old Car Festival dancers than in years past. The Roaring Twenties represented a break with traditions and the start to the modern age. It was a prosperous and exuberant time in history and, of course, the fashions of the time reflected this vibrancy. One of our challenges with creating these period accurate looks was that the clothing and accessories were not just for show – they also needed to be functional and durable since the dancers would be strolling through the village prior to spending two very active hours dancing outside.
Since men’s formal wear has generally changed little in over a hundred years, male dancers were elegantly dressed in a mix of black tuxedo styles which were appropriate for that era and remain stylish today. For formal occasions in the 1920s, men wore their tuxedos with white gloves and (when outdoors) top hats or even bowler hats. Special classically inspired touches such as suspenders, French cuffs with cufflinks and shoe spats helped to create an authentic look for each of our gentleman dancers.
As for the ladies, The Clothing Studio focused on many of the fashionable trends of the era celebrating new-found freedoms women enjoyed in the 1920s ranging from the right to vote to more relaxed fashions which finally freed women from the constraints of the corset. Bare arms and the appearance of bare legs with nude colored seamed stockings as well as shorter skirt lengths were visible signs of new celebrated relaxed attitudes. Some of the trends featured in the stunning outfits worn by our Old Car Festival female dancers included beaded fabrics, tiered shirts, drop waists, straight simple silhouettes and embellished shoes.
If you missed the vintage cars and fashions featured at this year’s Old Car Festival in Greenfield Village, be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s 64th annual Old Car Festival in September. Every year there is always a different mix of amazing vintage cars (and fashion) to enjoy.
Written by Tracy Donohue, General Manager, The Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford. Photos by Lindsey Grudnicki.
At this year's Old Car Festival (our 63rd offering), we'll continue to celebrate Henry Ford's 150th birthday by bringing together examples of all of the pre-Model T Fords, known as the letter cars. From the Model A to the Model T, these cars helped revolutionize the car industry. Which cars can you expect to see in Greenfield Village this weekend?
The rarest of these cars is the Model B. It was Ford’s first front-engine car and first four-cylinder model. It was also quite expensive ($2000) and sold poorly. Consequently, only seven complete examples are known to survive today. The Model B at Old Car Festival will be the museum’s own, coming off of the floor to make this special gathering complete.
Also of note is the Ford Model K. It has its place in the Ford story as the expensive ($2500) six-cylinder car that Henry Ford didn’t like. He was thinking seriously of his “car for the masses” when the K was introduced, and the Model K led directly to a split with his original backer Alexander Malcomson. Malcomson wanted to build big, expensive cars which generated big profits per unit sold, while Ford wanted to build inexpensive cars and make the profit up in volume. Interestingly, Ford Motor Company would not produce another six-cylinder car until 1941.
Finally, the Model N deserves some attention. Many people don’t realize that Ford Motor Company was a great success even before the Model T. The N, introduced in 1906, was the best-selling car in the United States with more than 7000 produced. Reliable and inexpensive ($500), it was very much a proto-Model T.
In addition to showcasing the letter cars this year, we'll also be running four additional historically significant vehicles, with replicas of two (the Quadricycle and Sweepstakes) built by Henry himself.
We'll be open late Saturday night for car enthusiasts to enjoy exploring Greenfield Village looking for some of their favorite classic cars in the gaslight parade as they enjoy the sounds of The Hotel Savarine Society Orchestra. Which car will you be looking for? Share your favorites online us by tagging your content with #GVOldCarFest.
If you’ve ever been to the Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village, you might be familiar with the 1920s Auto Touring exhibit. Since 2002, the exhibit has been a staple for the country’s longest-running antique car show, reminding guests what an event a “road trip” was in the early days of automobiles. To celebrate the exhibit’s 10th anniversary, roadside historian Daniel Hershberger has given the event a new twist, this time focusing on the evolution of auto touring in the early years of the 20th century, from 1914 to 1930.
I had a chance to talk to Dan last week about next weekend’s activities and there are some great features in store. Overall, the exhibit has expanded in its offerings. For some of the regular guests Dan sees year after year, he thinks they’ll really like what this year has to offer. An exhibit like this provides a different angle to Old Car Festival, because just as automobiles evolved, so did the motor camping industry.
For 2012, the exhibit is broken into four vignettes:
The Early Years
Take a look at a circa 1915 Model T five-passenger touring car outfitted with a lean-to tent.
Advent of the Trailer Era
A fully restored model of the Clare Trailer Company’s earliest offerings will not only be set up but guests can actually enter the trailer and take a look inside.
The Matured Fold-Out Tent Trailer
Historians and experts believe the golden age of motor camping to be the 1920s, with the peak being reached in 1927. Guests will be able to take a look at a restored 1927 Auto-Kamp fold-out tent trailer, made in Saginaw, Mich.
The End of an Era and the Birth of an Industry
A special addition this year to the exhibit, a Covered Wagon Company travel trailer prototype will be on loan from the Detroit Historical Society. The trailer, which hasn’t been on display in decades, is an important part in the evolution of auto touring as it essentially launched the modern trailer industry that we know today. Guests will learn about Arthur Sherman, the creator of the trailer, and his desire to create a camper that was easier to use for motorists.
If you’re curious to learn more about the evolution of auto touring, join us at Old Car Festival Sept. 8-9. The event is free with village admission.
Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.
My husband, the kids and I spent the better part of Sunday at Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village. After all the bad weather we've been having, it was truly glorious to be out and about admiring the hundreds of vehicles displayed (and driving!) in the show.
Vehicles at the show are those built from the 1880s to 1932. It was fascinating to see how many unique ideas different vehicle manufacturers had building some of those really early machines. Since this show is more about what you could see (although the sounds of the old engines were like music), below are (some) photos of this wonderful event. And here's a video of the 1770 Fardier de Cugnot in action.
Kristine Hass is a mother of five and long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family's visits to America's Greatest History Attraction.